Enjoy strong rewards on flights.
There’s an airline credit card out there for every type of traveler. To help you determine which card is right for you, we assembled our top picks.
Compare airline credit cards
Many airlines offer cobranded credit cards with airline-specific perks. If you fly with different carriers, you might like a general travel card instead.
Best airline credit cards
Our list starts with a general travel card and is followed by cobranded products for top US airlines. Check out the bottom of the guide for more cards from other airlines.
A quick look at the best airline credit cards
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best for airline rewards and transferable airline points
- Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express: Best for Delta
- United℠ Explorer Card: Best for United
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®: Best for American Airlines
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Best for Southwest
Best for airline rewards and transferable airline points: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Best for Delta: Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express
Best for United: United℠ Explorer Card
Best for American Airlines: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
Best for Southwest: Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card
How we selected our top cards
We looked at a variety of factors consumers might consider when selecting an airline rewards credit card, including the particular airline, earning rates, possible rewards, redemption values and additional perks or benefits associated with traveling. Those cards that stood out above the rest in a particular category, or served a specific niche, were chosen for our list.
What’s changed in 2019
With so many great airline credit cards to choose from, we decided to highlight the respective branded cards this year that provided the right mix of value versus the annual fee. Notable this year is the United℠ Explorer Card, which offers a terrific value versus other mid-tier airline cards.
Membership Rewards vs. Chase Ultimate Rewards
You can transfer points to select airline and hotel partners with Amex’s Membership Rewards and Chase’s Ultimate Rewards.
Amex has an edge in international airline partners, which makes it the favorite in our book. But look at the lists of partners for yourself and see what works for you. Chase lets you transfer points to Southwest and World of Hyatt, two high-value options that Amex doesn’t work with.
How to choose an airline credit card
- Decide if you want a general or cobranded card.
A general card can be effective if you fly with different airlines. Depending on the provider, you may be able to transfer your points or miles to partner airlines. This gives you a lot of flexibility you wouldn’t get with a cobranded card.
- Think about how much you want to pay.
Airline credit cards usually fall into three general price points: $0, $99 or $450 a year.
- Apply for the card.
You’ll need information like your full name, contact details, Social Security number, date of birth, gross annual income and employment information.
- Wait for your card.
Many travel-card providers will give you a decision on your application immediately. If a provider needs to review your application manually, it may take a few days to a few weeks to hear back.
If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card. You probably shouldn’t get the card for its rewards, as you’ll often find stronger points or miles from a general card. But the cobranded product might offer airline-specific perks such as priority boarding, free checked baggage and access to the airline’s lounges.
A no-annual-fee cobranded card usually offers limited airline perks — for example, savings on inflight purchases. The mid-tier card typically offers a few more benefits, such as priority boarding and checked baggage. The $450-a-year card may offer airport-lounge access, TSA PreCheck/Global Entry credit or a companion pass.
If you can forego airline benefits, you might like a general travel card with no annual fee. You’ll find several options with great rewards.
If you’re approved, look for your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.
Read more about airline credit cards
If you want to earn flexible points or miles on flights, consider a general travel credit card. If you’re loyal to a certain airline, you might like a cobranded card.
Not sure if an airline card is right for you? Check out our guide to travel credit cards for more options.